Yemen pardons journalist jailed for al Qaeda ties
Sanaa: Yemen`s president has pardoned a journalist who was jailed for three years on charges of helping al Qaeda and US born militant cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.
The case of the reporter, Abdelela Shayie, received international attention. President Barack Obama put pressure on Yemen`s former president in 2011 to keep him in custody.
Shayie, who published interviews with top al Qaeda figures in Yemen, denied the charges against him. He was detained in 2010. One condition of his release which happened yesterday is a ban on travel outside Yemen for two years.
According to the London-based rights group Amnesty International, Shayie appeared to have been targeted for his work "uncovering information on US Complicity in attacks in the country."
Shayie was sentenced to five years in prison for his association with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the group`s branch in Yemen.
Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi ordered the pardon without making the reasons public.
The Yemen`s journalists` union welcomed the move to free him.
The union chief, Marwan Damag, told The Associated Press that Shayie was being held for "political reasons" and that journalists from the union met with Hadi this year to push for his release.
"We welcome this decision, and we consider it a step in support of freedom of expression in the country," Damag said.
A White House statement released in February 2011 said that Obama called Yemen`s longtime president at the time, Ali Abdullah Saleh, and "expressed concern" over a decision to release Shayie then. He remained in prison after that phone call.
A statement by Amnesty International in early 2011, said there were "strong indications" that the charges against him were " trumped up and that he has been jailed solely for daring to speak out about US Collaboration in a cluster munitions attack which took place in Yemen."
That December 2009 attack killed around 55 people, including nearly two dozen children and 14 alleged members of al-Qaida, according to rights groups. The Obama administration has not acknowledged a role in the attack.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists also issued statements about his arrest over the years. It called for his immediate release and said his trial was plagued by dozens of procedural violations.